UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis in the Young Child

Keywords: Appendicitis, Pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/13/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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  • For children under 5 years of age the rate of missing an appendicitis remains very high.  (57%-67%)
  • The rate of misdiagnosis increases as the age decreases. 
  • In cases of missed appendicitis the most common incorrect diagnosis is gastroenteritis.
  • Think twice before you label vomiting alone, or diarrhea alone as gastroenteritis.
  • If an appendicitis is missed there is an increased risk of perforation, abscess formation, and higher morbidity. 


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Category: Toxicology

Title: Black Box Warning for Metoclopramide

Keywords: metoclopramide, black box warning, tardive dyskinesia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/12/2009 by Bryan Hayes, PharmD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Add metoclopramide (Reglan) to the laundry list of medications with black box warnings from the FDA. Why was a black box warning added?

  • Long-term metoclopramide use has been linked to tardive dyskinesia (involuntary and repetitive body movements) even after the drug is no longer being taken.
  • Risk factors: Long-term or high-dose use, elderly, female gender.
  • Recommended that metoclopramide treatment not exceed 3 months.
What implications does this have for our practice in the ED?
  • None really.
  • Just be aware of the dopamine antagonist effects (EPS - dystonic reactions) that are possible whenever you order metoclopramide in the acute setting.
  • These effects can be treated effectively with an anticholinergic agent, such as diphenhydramine or benztropine.

Category: Neurology

Title: Conventions for Performing the NIH Stroke Scale

Keywords: nihss, stroke scale (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/11/2009 by Aisha Liferidge, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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When performing the NIH Stroke Scale, keep the following conventions in mind:

-- Administer scale items in their exact order.
-- Avoid coaching the patient.
-- Accept the patient's first effort.
-- Be consistent.
-- Score only what the patient actually does.
-- Include all deficits in scoring.

Category: Vascular

Title: Follow-up for the Hypertensive Patient

Keywords: Hypertensive (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/10/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Follow-up for the Hypertensive Patient

We see hypertensive patients every day, every shift. And, we discharge many of them. So, when do you get them follow-up?

The JNC-7 recommends that patients with BPs > 180/110 mm Hg have follow-up within 7 days. Like most of the HTN recommendations in the primary care setting, this recommendation is based on a "smart person" concensus....and no data.

This is a tremendous issue for us in the ED, because we don't want to see a bad outcome in our discharged hypertensive patients.

Some pearls regarding discharging the very hypertensive (but asymtomatic) patient:

  • Since there isn't any realy data on follow-up, it would be wise to use caution and have very high BPs checked the next day and to NOT wait a week.
  • Discharge instructions should note when/where (if you have to...use the ED as a recheck) the patient is to follow-up
  • ALWAYS warn patients about what can/will happen if they don't seek follow-up: MI, stroke, renal failure/need for dialysis, death, and disability and write this in the chart. The last thing you want to hear is that the patient went on to develop renal failure/stroke, etc. and that they claim they were not warned about what could happen.
  • When it is possible, contact the patient's doctor to discuss management

Category: Cardiology

Title: pericardial tamponade and positive pressure ventilation

Keywords: tamponade, pericardial tamponade, intubation, positive pressure ventilation, complications (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/8/2009 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Non-invasive ventilation and standard mechanical ventilation can have very deleterious hemodynamic effects on patients with cardiac tamponade because of the drop in preload that results from positive pressure ventilation. The threshold for intubation in these patients should probably be raised. If you are ever caring for a patient with cardiac tamponade that definitely needs to be intubated and ventilated, be prepared for a significant drop in blood pressure and the potential need for pericardiocentesis. Once the patient is intubated, do everything possible to avoid high ventilatory pressures. [Ho AM, Graham CA, Ng CSH, et al. Timing of tracheal intubation in traumatic cardiac tamponade: a word of caution. Resuscitation 2009;80:272-274.]

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Galeazzi Fracture

Keywords: Galeazzi, Fracture (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/7/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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The Galeazzi Fracture:

  • It is a fracture of the distal to middle third of the radial shaft with dislocation of the Distal Radio-Ulnar Joint. 
  • Typical mechanism of injury is a fall onto a outstretched hyperpronated forearm.
  • Estimated to represent 7% of adult forearm fractures.
  • This fracture requires surgical repair (Open reduction and internal fixation) in order to prevent presistant or recurrent dislocation of the distal ulnar which typically occurs with closed reduction techniques.
  • Associated with injury to the Anterior interosseous nerve which is a purely motor branch of the median nerve.  Injury results in paralys of the flexor pollicis longus (FPL) and flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) to the index finger, resulting in loss of the pinch mechanism between the thumb and index finger.

To see a photo of a Galeazzi fracture please visit the Learning Radiology Website by clicking on the following link:

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF)

Systemic small vessel vasculitis caused by R rickettsii which is transmitted by a tick bite.


Clinical features: fever, headache, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, and characteristic rash. Rash usually appears before the sixth day of the illness initially on the wrists and ankles, and spreads to the trunk within hours.  Initially. It is erythematous and macular, later becoming petechial.

Laboratory findings: thrombocytopenia, anemia, and hyponatremia.

Complications: meningitis, multiorgan involvement, DIC, shock, and death. 

Treatment: doxcycycline (even despite the risk of dental staining in children younger than 8 years old)

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Category: Toxicology

Title: Clevidipine - A new IV calcium channel blocker

Keywords: Clevidipine, calcium channel antagonist, calcium channel blocker, antihypertensive (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/5/2009 by Ellen Lemkin, MD, PharmD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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  • A new intravenous antihypertensive agent
  • Has a very rapid onset (2-4 min) and offset (5-15 min), in contrast to the available IV calcium channel blocker nicardipine, which has a duration of action of 3-6 hours
  • Contraindicated in patients with soy or egg allergies, and in those with defective lipid metabolism
  • Most common ADR's reported were headache, nausea, and vomiting
  • Initiate at 1-2 mg/hr, most respond at doses between 4-6 mg/hr
  • Maximum recommended dose is 16 mg/hr
  • Costs between $86 to $140 per 50 mg vial

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Category: Neurology

Title: Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis (Part II)

Keywords: cavernous sinus thrombosis, extraocular palsies (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/5/2009 by Aisha Liferidge, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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  • Fever is present in 80% of cases.
  • Treatment includes high dose intravenous antibiotics.  Anti-coagulation therapy is controversial and often held.
  • Mortality is 30% with an additional 30% enduring sequelae such as oculomotor weakness, blindness, and pituitary insufficiency.

Category: Vascular

Title: Evaluation of End Organ Damage in Hypertensive Patients

Keywords: Hypertension, End-Organ Damage (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/3/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Rob Rogers, MD

Evaluation of End Organ Damage in Hypertensive Patients

No evidence to date supports the ED workup for end-organ damage in asymptomatic hypertensive patients.

End-Organ Damage Pearls:

  • Rarely, if ever, will an aimless search for lab abnormalities lead to any clinically meaningful change in patient management
  • An elevated creatinine does NOT define acute, end-organ damage. Most of the time it is due to the effects of chronic hypertension.
  • There is some evidence that a UA that has BOTH no protein and no red cells predicts a normal creatinine. The studies that have looked at this, however, are very small. Also, HTN in and of itself may cause some protein leak, even in the setting of normal renal function
  • A CXR and/or ECG is not needed in an asymptomatic patient.
  • Prompt followup is always necessary especially if no ED workup is started. All of this can be dome in the primary care doctor's office.


Category: Critical Care

Title: NMBs in intubated patients

Posted: 3/3/2009 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Neuromuscular Blocking Agent (NMBA)

  • NMBAs are used to facilitate intubation when performing RSI
  • Importantly, NMBAs have no analgesic or amnestic effects
  • Indiscriminate and repeated dosing of NMBA can lead to prolonged recovery and critical illness polyneuromyopathy, a devastating complication of critical illness that prolongs ventilation, ICU/hospital length of stay, and increases mortality
  • Take Home Point: provide adequate amounts of sedation and analgesia to your intubated ED patients rather then reflexively giving repeated doses of NMBA

Category: Cardiology

Title: AMI and normal/non-specific ECGs

Keywords: electrocardiography, acute myocardial infarction (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/2/2009 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Initially normal ECGs may be found in 8% of patients with an acute MI, and 35% of patients with acute MI may have an initially non-specific ECG. The sensitivity of electrocardiography increases with serial ECG testing, but never reaches 100% in terms of sensitivity or reliability. The bottom line is that although ECGs are very good for ruling IN acute MI, they are not so great at ruling OUT acute MI. The HPI is the most important tool. ["Prognostic Value of a Normal or Nonspecific Initial ECG in AMI," JAMA 2001]

Category: Orthopedics

Title: The Ottawa Rules

Keywords: Ottawa, Ankle, Knee, Foot (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/28/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Most people are familiar with the Ottawa Ankle Rules, but there are also Ottawa Knee and Foot rules.  The Ottawa rules help to limit the number of x-rays you may need in patients that present with ankle, foot or knee pain after an injury.

The Ottawa Ankle Rule

An ankle x-ray is only needed if there pain in the mallelolar area and any of the following:

  • Bone tenderness at the posterior tip of the base of the lateral mallelous
  • Bone tenderness at the posterior tip of the base of the medial mallelous
  • Inability to weight bear immediately and in the Emergency Department

The Ottawa Foot Rule

A foot x-ray is only needed if there is pain in the midfoot and any of the following:

  • Bone tenderness at the base of the 5th metatarsal
  • Bone tenderness over the navicular
  • Inability to weight bear immediately and in the Emergency Department

The Ottawa Knee Rule

A knee x-ray is only needed for knee injury patients when they have any of the following:

  • Age 55 or over
  • Isolated tenderness of the patella (no bone tenderness of the knee other than the patella)
  • Tenderness at the head of the fibula
  • Inability to flex to 90 degrees
  • Inability to weight bear both immediately and in the Emergency Department (4 steps - unable to transfer weight twice onto each lower limb regardless of limping).

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Seizure Pearls

Keywords: pediatric seizures (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/28/2009 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Don Van Wie, DO

  • Pediatric seizures are common and 4-6% of all children will have a seizure by the time they are 16 years old.
  • Afebrile neonatal seizures require an evaluation of electrolytes, glucose, calcium, magnesium, LP, blood and urine cultures.
  • Simple Febrile seizures usually do not require any lab testing or admission if the child appears well.
  • Dilution of formula with too much water is a common cause of hyponatremic seizures in infants.  (Treat with 3ml/kg of 3% hypertonic saline)
  • Complex febrile seizures have a higher risk for meningitis than simple febrile seizures, so perform an LP, give antibiotics, and admit.
  • When intubating for Status Epilepticus consider using thiopental or propofol for induction given their antiepileptic properties.

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Category: Toxicology

Title: Pharmacoeconomics

Keywords: ondansetron, albuterol (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/26/2009 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Fermin Barrueto, MD

As the economy worsens and our patients pay for more prescriptions out of pocket, here are some tips that may help you better serve your patients: 1) Ondansetron (zofran) is now off patent. Write generic on your script for zofran - for pediatrics the ODT (dissolving tablets) - are all much cheaper ($0.50 to $1.00 per pill or ODT). IV formulation is now cheaper than phenergan. Reglan is probably still the cheapest in most pharmacies. 2) Typical $4 antibiotics are the following: SMP-TMZ (Bactrim), Cephalexin, Amoxicillin, Penicillin, Ciprofloxacin. 3) Albuterol MDIs are now much more expensive because they have to be CFC free. Unfortunately, after this federal regulation, patients will have difficulty getting these inhalers which can be quite expensive. If you write a script and the patient is self-pay, they are going to have difficulty. Hospitals are beginning to discourage "to go" inhalers and even pills due to the fact that insurance companies DO NOT reimburse these costs - only IV meds.

Category: Critical Care

Title: The Crashing Vented Patient

Posted: 2/24/2009 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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The Crashing Intubated ED Patient

  • For intubated ED patients who develop respiratory distress and are hemodynamically unstable, perform the following:
    • Immediately disconnect from the ventilator
    • Manually ventilate with 100% FiO2
    • Exclude tension pneumothorax (decompress)
    • Exclude auto-PEEP (allow for lung deflation)
    • Check ET tube for kinks, twisting, or obstruction
    • Check for air leak (check pilot balloon and listen for air coming from mouth/nose during manual ventilation)
    • Check the ventilator circuit

Category: Airway Management

Title: Brugada syndrome mimics

Keywords: Brugada syndrome (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/22/2009 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Brugada syndrome ECG findings are now well-recognized by many emergency physicians, but we need to be aware of mimics as well. Conditions that have been reported to induce a Brugada-ECG pattern include hyperkalemia, hypercalcemia, cocaine intoxication, and conditions that impinge on the right ventricle (e.g., tumors, pericardial fluid). There's debate in the cardiology community regarding how to manage these patients...but this debate is best left to your cardiology consultants. When you see a Brugada-like finding, get an electrophysiologist involved in the case!

Category: Vascular

Title: Bleeding AV Fistulas

Keywords: AV fistulas, bleeding (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/21/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Bleeding AV Fistulas

It is not an uncommon complaint for dialysis patients to present with bleeding from their fistula.  They can lose a large amount of blood in a short period of time if not treated promptly, and if treated too agressive their fistula can clot off. Some tips on how to control the bleeding.

Most of the bleeding occurs at the site that the needle puntured the fistula. If it is due to an ulcer eroding into the fistula these tips may not be effective.

  • The easiest and safest way to control the bleeding is with simple diret pressure directly over the site of bleeding with a single finger. No guaze.  [Gown up and wear goggles or eye protection]. The use of a big wad of guaze or a pressure dressing tends to just hide the continued bleeding or result in the clotting off of the fistula.
  • Injecting lidocaine with epinephrine at the site can also help and helps set you up for the next step,
  • A figure eight stitch at the puncture site can help close the puncture wound.
  • Of course you should call your vascular surgeon if you are having trouble controlling the bleeding, want close follow up or finger is going numb from holding pressure.

I typically check a CBC and coags.  Once the bleeding is controlled observe the patient for awhile [typically the hour to hour and half to get the labs back] and then road test them with a walk around the Emergency Department to ensure it does not start bleeding again.



Category: Pediatrics

Title: Septic / Pyogenic Arthritis

Posted: 2/19/2009 by Rose Chasm, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Rose Chasm, MD

  • An acute bacterial infection of a joint.
  • Peak incidence in children is younger than 2 years of age.
  • Risk factors:
    • history of trauma
    • preceding URI
    • immunodeficiency
    • hemoglobinopathy
    • Diabetes.
  • Age is the most important determinant of cause.
    • In all age groups, S aureus is the primary organism accounting for more than 50% of cases.
    • Among neonates, enteric gram-negative organisms and group B Streptococcus are the most frequent causes.
    • Group A Streptococcus, S pneumoniae, and K kingae are common causes in children younger than 5 years old.
  • Blood culture, joint fluid aspiration and analysis, gram stain, and culture of fluid is recommended.
  • In pyogenic arthritis, the joint fluid is usually cloudy and has a leukocyte count of at least 50 x 10000/mcL, with a predominance of polymorphonuclear cells, low glucose concentrations, and high protein values.
  • Treatment involves a combination of parenteral antibiotics, surgical drainage, and decompression of the affected joint.
  • All children who have pyogenic arthritis of the hip or shoulder require prompt open surgical drainage and irrigation to prevent permanent joint damage as the increased intra-articular pressure can compromise blood flow resulting in avascular necrosis of the femoral or humeral head and predisposing the patient to dislocations.
  • Open surgical drainage of other joints usually is not required.

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Category: Toxicology

Title: Rocuronium vs Succinylcholine

Keywords: rocuronium, succinylcholine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/19/2009 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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Rocuronium is fast becoming the agent of choice for RSI in the Emergency Department. Here is a head to head comparison of the two drugs to understand why:

  Rocuronium Succinycholine










Histamine Release


Minimal Yes

CVS Effect

Tachycardia rare

Severe Brady rare

Other Adverse Effect

No fasciculations, No ICP effect, No Rhabdo

Fasciculations, increase ICP, rhabdo, movement of displaced Fxs